After more than a decade in the game on both the creative and business sides, you could probably forgive Fliptrix if he was to rest on his laurels for a while. On Mantra No.9 however, the London MC sounds as refreshed and razor-sharp as he has in his career. Despite the year he has taken off from writing to relocate to Portugal, he seems to scarcely have missed a beat. 15 years on from his debut, his skills have been refined and the man behind the words has grown. Mantra No.9 is a testament to all of this and more.
Whilst his contemporaries have found acclaim in grime and drill, Fliptrix’s commitment to his core hip-hop sound has led to its current state of refinement. Over 18 tracks spanning just under an hour’s runtime, Fliptrix draws from an arsenal of guests and producers from his own label, High Focus. That he sounds at home on all of the beats and among friends with every guest is telling of the unity of sonic culture he has constructed at the label.
The instrumentals at play draw closely from classic hip-hop. The snares snap and the bass kicks pound deep in the mix as chopped-up vocal samples and the occasional instance of some airy keys layer melodic beauty on top of the percussive malice. This only accents the rhymes Fliptrix layers across the sonic canvas.
On the standout “Primordial Soup” he comes out of the gate spitting about his time away, his growth, and parenthood. His supreme breath control is on display as he strings bars together cascading across the instrumental. Longtime friend and collaborator King Kashmere is in this regard the perfect accompaniment to him, one so in-tune with Fliptrix’s vision of rap.
“Reckless”, featuring the rest of the Four Owls supergroup alongside Fliptrix, is much in the same vein. Verb T, BVA, Leaf Dog, and Fliptrix himself have spent more than a decade collaborating and spurring each other on. Fliptrix has described Mantra No. 9 as an important album for him and with the quartet back together it feels like a full-circle moment.
Across the album, Fliptrix never rushes. The beats travel at his speed alone. Although he may stretch his lyricism, he is never stretched. The production being entirely contributed by High Focus Records artists means it feels as if it was tailored for him.
On the titular “Mantra No. 9” he bobs and weaves with the beat as his sonic sparring partner. It’s a microcosm for the album as a whole, one where he reaffirms what made his raps so engaging in the first place. Of the 18 tracks of the album, six have features, and on the other two-thirds he carries the tracks with a swagger that can only come from supreme confidence in your own abilities and a level of skill that can only come from experience. This is Fliptrix at his best.
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